Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ouch.

Oh, crap.

That's kind of how I feel today. My brain just keeps going, "Crap. Crap. CRAP. Craaaaaaaaaap." Did you know there are about 30 different ways to say the word, "crap?" There totally are. 

I went to see my neurosurgeon yesterday (which in itself wasn't a great thing), and I need to have back surgery. Again. I have to say I expected as much when I went in, so I'm not surprised, per se, but I am disappointed. And a little scared. 

OK. A lot scared.

When I had surgery the first time, I was actually looking forward to it. I was in so much pain, and it was only going to get worse. I had to put off the surgery six weeks because I was pregnant, and it felt like the longest six weeks of my life. I walked with a cane like I was 90 (although my 92-year-old grandmother doesn't even use a cane), and I counted down the days till I was free from the pain.

This time? Not so much. There are a couple of reasons for this:
  1. I have a kid now. Yes, it's scary to think that something might happen and I could die on the table and not be around for him. Apart from that, how am I going to care for him post-op when last time I wasn't even allowed to pick up a gallon of milk? Lifting a 30-pound toddler will be frowned upon, I'm sure.
  2. I recovered pretty well from my first back surgery. I didn't have any residual nerve damage or anything. All I can think of is that the more times I'm opened up, the more chances there are for something to go wrong. There are a lot of nerves in my spine. I don't want my surgery to be a reenactment of a lousy bomb disarming scene: "No, don't cut the red wire! Aaaaaaaaggggghhhhh!"
So.

I got through the last surgery OK, as did my son. I have a great neurosurgeon. God has clearly been with me thus far, and he gives no indication of throwing in the towel anytime soon. So why can't I just "let go and let God," as the saying goes?

I dunno.

Wait—I do know. Because this is totally out of my hands. There is no possible thing I can do to make this better. Everything about this situation falls into the hands of God and my neurosurgeon. I mean, I can opt not to have the surgery, but I still can't do anything about my condition. I have no choice but to rely on others to take care of this for me.

Why are we loathe to give up control of something we have so little control over, anyway? God's the one who can fix things, never me. God's the one who created the whole—well, everything. He got me through the last surgery. He'll get me through the next one. He has so much strength and power, and he's just waiting for me to let him use it. Well, no. He's God. He can do whatever he wants, regardless of what I think I let him do. It's more he's waiting for me to call on him to use it. He's more than willing. He's waiting for me to wait for him.

Psalm 27:14: Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to pray for that peace that passes understanding. Because sometimes there's nothing else to do but pray and wait for the Lord.

Monday, September 27, 2010

If You're Happy and You Know It, Wear a Hoodie!

I love autumn. Fall. Whatever word you prefer. It's my favorite time of year. Fall contains cool weather, beautiful scenery, my birthday, and now my son's birthday. Can it get any better?

Yes. Yes, it can. One word: hoodies.

I love hoodies. Everyone who knows me knows this. I have a bit of a collection. Most of them are college hoodies. Some are pullovers, some are zip-ups. A good portion of my sweaters have hoods, as well. I prefer a kangaroo pouch to separate pockets, but I'll wear both. I actually had to cull the herd a little bit this summer to make room for new hoodies. It was tough parting with a few of them, but I knew it was for the best...

*sniffle* I need a minute.




I didn't own a hoodie until college, you know. I didn't like them prior to that. I didn't think they looked comfortable because of the hood, and I was a little afraid of being strangled by the strings. Can you believe it? But one crisp autumn day during my junior year of college, Aeropostale had some kind of crate sale in the student union. I found a hoodie and fell in love. Charcoal gray with red lining. I still have it, it still fits, and it doesn't look a bit worn.

Note: Buy men's hoodies in smaller sizes instead of buying women's. They hold up better. Women's clothes are poorly made, which is part of a larger conspiracy to get women to spend more money. Just sayin'.

I know you're thinking, "What do hoodies have to do with anything, Rachel? I don't read this blog for fashion advice!" Nor should you. What Not to Wear would have all my hoodies in a trash can first thing. But do you realize it took me twenty years to try a hoodie? And why? Irrational fear of being strangled by a hood? Silly.

We often waste a lot of time avoiding something that we don't understand. We assume we know all there is to know about a thing and that we couldn't possibly benefit from it. We don't realize that the attempt in itself could be life-changing, never mind the effect the actual thing could have on our lives.

God speaks into our lives regularly. There are times we listen, and there are times we don't. Sometimes he wants us to go outside of our comfort zone to reach someone or to do something that will glorify him, but we don't. We get scared. The reasons are sometimes valid, sometimes not. Regardless, he expects us to act. After all, he is God. He's kind of a big deal. We can't call ourselves followers of Christ if we're not willing to respond to God.

I'm not exactly sure for whom this blog post is intended, but I know God is trying to speak into someone's life. Perhaps just mine. There are lots of things I feel God is asking me to do, but I keep dragging my heels. Out of fear, out of a lack of wisdom. It seems I'd rather pull myself out of relationship with him than follow through on things that he wants me to do, even with the understanding that, because he's asking me, he's got plans that will work out. It's a guaranteed win.

What is God asking you to do? Why aren't you doing it? It could change your life.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Big Three

I'm a terrible housewife. Apart from having seasonal decorations up (only because I love fall and Christmas decorations), I'm just not good at keeping a nice house. I can't get rid of clutter or get the cleaning and laundry done. The only cleaning I think to do with any sort of regularity has to do with my son—his room, his toys, his laundry.

The guilt really sets in when my husband comes home from work. I'd like him to come home to a clean and comfortable house with dinner waiting for him, circa 1962. This doesn't typically happen. He doesn't make me feel bad about it by any means—it's just a personal goal that I'd like to achieve.

Someday.

A friend once suggested (and I have no recollection which friend—if that friend is reading this, I sincerely apologize for my forgetfulness) a method to getting something done. It involved asking my husband what the most important three things are for me to get done during the day. If I get those three things done, no matter what my day was like, he'll at least know I tried to get something done. I call it The Big Three. They are:
  1. Making the bed
  2. Tidying the living room
  3. Starting dinner (unless we're having leftovers)
We actually haven't revisited the list since we had our son, but these are the three things I try to get done every day. Do they get done every day? Eh. At least several times a week, though, which is enough to make a difference. 

I should also mention that my husband appears to be an atypical male. He cleans the kitchen every night. He does the majority of the laundry. He cleans the bathrooms. He vacuums. That's on top of all the yardwork. And I never ask him to do any of these things. He just does them.

The difference between me and my husband? 

A sense of urgency.

A former boss actually commented once that I had no sense of urgency when it came to my job. Nothing had to get done right away. I always got things done on time, but in my own time. He wanted to see a little more initiative and hop-to-it-ness.

My husband has an understanding that the bathroom needs to be cleaned. The carpets need to be vacuumed. My thinking is, "Boy, vacuumed rooms are nice." But there's never a need. Never an urgency. No reason to go do it right now.

I'd like to say my thinking in this area is limited to household chores, but it's not. What's this blog about again? Faith and stuff. So my sense of urgency is lacking in my faith. And stuff.

I don't know how much time I've got on this earth. No one does. Today could be it for me. Who knows? I should be doing things! God's got a list for me! I should have some up-and-at-'em, right? 

But I don't.

So I've decided that I need The Big Three for God. Three things that I get done every day, no matter what, to show God that I'm at least trying. The Big Three shall be:
  1. Praying
  2. Reading my Bible
  3. Fellowship
Now, "fellowship" doesn't mean I need to go to a pitch-in dinner every night, but I need to have some sort of faith-based conversation every day—with my husband, with a friend, with someone. As a form of accountability, I guess. And the other two are pretty much no-brainers.

It's not a perfect system, but hopefully it'll make a difference. Maybe I'll even pray for a sense of urgency. Starting tomorrow...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thinking Inside the Box

I love my family. I have a wonderful family. God gave me a wonderful husband and a beautiful son, and I love both of them very dearly.

My husband and I have recently been talking about adding to our family. Now, we don't have a specific timeline for this, but we thought we'd like a baby next year sometime. In the fall. Specifically, September. Then our family birthdays would be August-September-October-November. Wouldn't that be great? Hitting that September window would be tricky...

But I digress.

I had an MRI on my back Tuesday. I've got a disc fragment that's doing it's own thing and is squishing a nerve that makes my left leg pretty much numb. Excellent! I have to go see my neurosurgeon.

Here is how the two tie together: I had back surgery in 2008. While I was pregnant with my son. It was the first week of my second trimester, they took all kinds of precautions to make sure they used the right anesthesia and didn't use an x-ray machine. My surgery was fine, and I had a perfect baby boy. No problems.

I've had problems with my back ever since. Not major ones, just stiffness, soreness. A few rounds of physical therapy. Nothing major.

But going to see my neurosurgeon again? Major.

My back is a source of frustration. My son is a source of joy. When it comes to what our family looks like, I trust God implicitly. He's already done a good job. I know our family will be fine because I've seen his work there. I approve.

My health—not so much.

It's easy to trust God when things work out. The hard part is trusting him when things don't work out. Trusting him when life doesn't turn out the way I think or hope it should. Can God heal my back? Of course he can. Can he make sure my neurosurgeon makes the right decisions and does a good job caring for me? Of course he can.

So why don't I trust him? Why don't I just tell him how I feel and assume he'll be all awesome and take care of things? That's his job, isn't it?

Because I'm human. Because sometimes I can only see what's right in front of me. When I don't get the result I want, I assume God doesn't want to work with me on that issue. Sometimes I'll even stop praying about that thing altogether. I decide what God will or won't do by my unwillingness to talk to him about it.

Who am I to decide what God's going to do?

It's like I've put God into a little box, and I'll only let him out on things I trust him to handle. Things he's already done well in the past. But when I think he's unpredictable, he's under lock and key in that little box.

That's some crap. Honestly. Trusting God means trusting him regardless of what we want our outcomes to be. Trusting that he's got a bigger plan for all of this than our shortsightedness can imagine. Knowing he can handle all aspects of our lives, not just the ones that appear easy or the ones that are "God-sized." There's nothing he can't handle, and nothing we can't trust him to handle.

I've got to go. I have something I need to unlock.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Pretty Little Bow

Looking back over some of my posts, I realized that I could very easily write fairy tales. All of my deep, philosophical (yeah, right) posts come to a neat conclusion. They all come down to a resolution, as if I have an answer for everything. A neat little package with a pretty little bow.

That's not how life is.

This may come from me being a know-it-all and needing to have an answer for everything, but there isn't an answer for everything

How do we end world hunger? Get those people some food! Easy, right? 

How do we end poverty? Take people in and help get them back on their feet! Simple! Duh! Should have been done years ago!

Yeah, there isn't always a neat and clean answer for things. I could say, rather tritely, that love is the answer. U2 even says it's how you dismantle an atomic bomb. I've never tried, but it sounds like it could work. Rainbows and puppy dogs might also be useful tools. I don't know.

When there are questions that we don't know how to answer, where do you go for answers? God? The Bible? Friends, family, experts on the Interweb? Do you get answers? Do you at least get closer to answers? What's your next step?

I used to think I'd like to run for president, but my biggest fear would be making campaign promises and then being unable to fulfill them once I got into office. Not because I'd forget or because I tricked people, but because there are some invisible, immovable objects in my way that I didn't know about because the government keeps lots of secrets.

Life can be complicated. Sometimes what seems like the easy answer is impossible because of a million immovable objects. Mostly people. 

Hmm.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crystal Clear

I love my friend Crystal. She's pretty amazing. She was my freshman roommate in college. I really thought I wouldn't like her, since she seemed like someone from the "cool" crowd (which I've never been). But we hit it off and we've been best friends ever since. We were in each other's weddings. I'm godmother to her darling son. Even though we live in different states, we talk several times a week and I try to see her every time we go to Ohio. I adore her.

Just one thing: She. Kicks. My. Butt.

Crystal tells it like it is. She doesn't sugar coat things. If I'm taking a road she doesn't like, she yanks me back by the collar and shoves me toward the other path. If anyone out there wants a boot camp where—instead of working out—the instructor simply tells you to get your act together and move forward, Crystal's your drill sergeant. Hire her immediately.

A couple of weeks ago, I was complaining to Crystal how much trouble I was having getting motivated to exercise. She immediately said, "Did you pray about it?" I said, "Well...no." She jumped all over my case. To paraphrase: "Rachel, how can you say that you're all into God when you don't pray when you need help? What, you think he's not going to help you? Rachel! Get on it!"

Yes, ma'am!

I prayed about it later that day. I prayed for determination and the will to be healthy and work out and eat better. And wouldn't you know it? I've worked out every day for the last two weeks. I've been eating smaller portions without counting points or anything—which I have to admit is some sort of divine intervention—and I've lost over four pounds. God is good. God is powerful. I doubted. Crystal kicked my butt. Miracles happened. I then thanked God for Crystal.

Believe it or not, this butt-kicking is not Crystal's best quality. Her best quality is her loyalty. I don't think I'll ever find a more loyal friend. She never talks behind your back, she'll defend you tooth and nail to anyone who speaks ill of you, and if she happens to hear gossip about you, she doesn't propagate it; she brings it directly to you. It's hard to find those qualities in a girl. Girls are very prone to gossip. Not Crystal.

I'm telling you all of this because, while I understand her honesty, I don't always love it. Sometimes you just don't want to hear that the choices you're making are bad ones. Sometimes it comes across as a little harsh. This has not been easy to get used to. I'm an extremely sensitive gal, and Crystal does try to take that into account these days, but at first it was a little jarring. 

It's part of who Crystal is. It's just her nature. I'd never had someone be so honest with me—sometimes so honest it hurts—and at the same time know that she's coming from a place of love and friendship. Truly.

We've been friends for over ten years now. We talk about things like parenting and marriage, and we can be tough on each other. But it's a good relationship. It's a good relationship because we take the whole package. 

Catie made a great post today about love using a quote from Dr. James McDonald:

"We cannot indiscriminately reap the benefits of a person's positive characteristics and at the very same time lament their weaknesses. To love is to buy the whole package. It's the choice to focus on the good and keep on seeing it...for a lifetime." 

This is so true. In our friendships, in our marriages, in any relationship you have, you take the good with the bad. Crystal is tough and doesn't let me get away with anything. It's not always my favorite quality. I'm a know-it-all. I'm like a sponge that sucks up information and seems to squeeze the info back out when people least want to hear it. It's not always her favorite quality. We know this about each other. We accept this about each other. We always know that there are times these seemingly annoying qualities will actually come in handy, like when I'm struggling to figure myself out or if she needs to phone a friend on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? OK, so the latter hasn't happened yet, but I know I'd be first on her speed dial. It may have actually taken us a full ten years to get to this point, but we're here. We love each other no matter what idiosyncrasies we each have. We're set.

Think about your friends. Do you have a list in your head of things that drive you crazy about that person? Throw the list away. Or, better yet, figure out how those things that drive you crazy can actually be things that draw you closer together. It doesn't have to take ten years.

Who knows?  You just might find that the quality that makes you cringe is the one you need the most.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Out of Commission

So I haven't posted in a few days. The truth is that I'm having some major back pain issues, and I find it difficult to sit at the computer for more than a few minutes. Today was doubly worse, as my medicine gave me some major nausea. I got my fasting done today! It just wasn't voluntary, so I'm afraid it doesn't count. Boo.

Times like these I wish I had a laptop. Hopefully I'll get back to blogging as usual in no time. Until then, pray for my silly back. Then go read some of my favorite bloggers (listed over on the right). They'll make you laugh! And think! And sometimes cry! But mostly the laughing and thinking stuff!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Short Play By Rachel: Fear the Roo





A Short Play by Rachel


Fear the Roo


Scene opens on RACHEL, HUSBAND, and SON exiting a busy Chick-Fil-A. GREEN LADY, apparently a parent or coach of the athletic team in green that is taking over the restaurant, stops them as they are about to exit.

GREEN LADY:      I'm sorry, but your shirt is puzzling me.

RACHEL and HUSBAND both look at their shirts.

GREEN LADY:     No, not you. (indicates HUSBAND) I know who the Boilermakers are. "Boiler up!" and all that. You. (indicates RACHEL) What's "Fear the Roo" mean? Where's that from?

RACHEL:             Oh. (laughs) Well, I went to the University of Akron. We're the Akron Zips, and our mascot is a kangaroo.

GREEN LADY:     (says nothing, stares at RACHEL expectantly)

RACHEL:              So. Akron.

GREEN LADY:     Well, how do they get from the Zips to a kangaroo? I mean, what's a zip?

RACHEL:              (looks at HUSBAND and SON, embarrassed) Well, it used to be the Zippers. We were named for a pair of rubber work boots that were popular. Guess they had zippers on them or something.

GREEN LADY:      (says nothing, stares at RACHEL expectantly)

RACHEL:               Rubber, Akron. You know.

HUSBAND:           (trying to help) Goodyear and Firestone are based in Akron.

GREEN LADY:      Oh, Firestone! I have a cousin who lives there.

RACHEL and HUSBAND look at each other.

GREEN LADY:      (says nothing, stares at RACHEL expectantly)

RACHEL:              (continues hesitantly) Well, I guess they thought boots didn't make great mascots, so they shortened it to the Zips and chose a kangaroo for a mascot. (as if reciting from a student handbook—which she is) They chose a kangaroo because kangaroos are strong, agile and fast—just like our athletes!

GREEN LADY:      Ah. And "Fear the Roo?"

RACHEL:              (trying not to roll her eyes) Well, I think they're just trying to be clever. I really like it. At least we're not the Banana Slugs, right? (laughs half-heartedly)

GREEN LADY:      No, the Banana Slugs aren't a bad mascot. (awkward pause) Ah. Well, thanks. I just was really puzzled by that. You folks have a good evening!

RACHEL and HUSBAND ad lib, Thanks, you too, etc.

SON:                        Bye-byyyyyyyyyye! (waves enthusiastically)

RACHEL, HUSBAND, and SON exit. 


END SCENE.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The World's Fastest Fast

Yeah, so that didn't really turn out the way I was hoping. I don't think I prepared correctly for it. I used to fast at least a few times a year as a challenge for the singles group my husband and I were in. But this wasn't quite right.  I can't figure it out. The only answer was that I didn't prepare my heart correctly.

I think I'm going to go ahead and eat a late lunch and try this again after the holiday weekend. *sigh*

Tuesday: Fasting. Again.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Meditate on THAT!

First of all, let me say that there are entire books written on the subject of Christian meditation. This is not that. This is simply my experience, which will hopefully make you less intimidated and therefore more inclined to have your own experience. So—just remember that.

*********************************

Meditation is nice. It's refreshing. It's calming. And I didn't even have to say "ohm" for an hour, so that's a bonus.

Christian meditation involves thinking about God through the lens of Jesus' sacrifice. We know something about the nature of God because he sent his son to die for us. That's love. We can also witness that he is just and good. There are a lot of things Jesus' life and death teach us about God.

Scripture is most commonly the basis for meditation. Really pondering a passage of scripture and its meaning to you and how you relate to your Creator is the core of meditation. It's turning your mind over to God's word and letting it really sink in to your heart. I even read somewhere that you should take a few minutes to meditate right when you wake up and just before you go to sleep, so God's word is the first and last thing on your mind each day.

Now, I don't know if there's some scientific way to find scripture to meditate on. Something New Testament-y is the obvious choice, if we're to think about Jesus' sacrifice. Clearly, that's where a person should go. The New Testament.

Yeah, I didn't do that. I just kind of opened the Bible and read where it opened.

Chronicles. Awesome.

You know, the Bible is supposed to be one big story. One big love letter pointing to Jesus. My meditation experience today just proves that.

In 1 Chronicles 17, David says, "I have a really pretty house, but the Ark of the Covenant is just hanging out in a tent. Essentially, God is hanging out in a tent, and I have a mansion. I'm going to build God a mansion!" God tells David not to do that, but that God will have David's son build him a house. And while he's at it, God will heap all kinds of blessings on David's son.

That was kind of a boring place to meditate, so I kept reading. This is 1 Chronicles 17.16-25:

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:

"Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men, O LORD God.

"What more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant, O LORD. For the sake of your servant and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made known all these great promises.

"There is no one like you, O LORD, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth whose God went out to redeem a people for himself, and to make a name for yourself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? You made your people Israel your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.

"And now, LORD, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised, so that it will be established and that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, 'The LORD Almighty, the God over Israel, is Israel's God!' And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

"You, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. So your servant has found courage to pray to you. O LORD, you are God! You have promised these good things to your servant. Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O LORD, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever."

Now, I'm not going to take David's blessing—what God promised him is for him, not for me. But I sure can borrow his praise. These verses are all about God keeping his promises and how awesome he is for that. And what's the main promise he kept to us? To me, personally?

Jesus.

It felt like my heart was singing as I read these verses. In Chronicles! Can you believe it? And it didn't take any time at all. I got the point pretty quickly. Then I took some time to kinda swish it around in my brain and in my heart and figure out what that means for me, personally, and my relationship with God.

I think the main lesson I've taken from meditation is that God will reveal himself to you if you're looking for him. Meditation is a time set aside just for that purpose—lots of time or just a little time, but spend the time.

Tomorrow: Fasting.

Wait, what? I thought that was further down the list! Maaaaaaaaaaan.

Tomorrow: *sigh* Fasting.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

God Fun!

I don't like the word "discipline." It reminds me of bad things, like getting in trouble when I was younger. Or making my toddler cry when I put him in time out. Whether you're on the giving or receiving end of discipline, it ain't fun.

It's no wonder that things called "spiritual disciplines" would be something we avoid or don't like doing. Maybe we should change the name to "God Fun!" I'd definitely participate in God Fun! It sounds like God's having a party and we're invited. Woohoo! Doesn't sound like work at all! Sadly, all the Christiany books already call your quality time with God "spiritual discipline." They really missed the boat on that one.

So what qualifies as a spiritual discipline? Again, the Christiany books have lists of them. Here's a short rundown:

  • Meditation
  • Fasting
  • Prayer
  • Study
  • Simplicity
  • Stewardship
  • Silence & Solitude
  • Submission
  • Service
  • Evangelism
  • Confession
  • Worship
  • Guidance
  • Celebration

How many of those sound fun? Celebration. How many of them are we supposed to do? All of them.

Maaaaaaan.

That's a lot to do every day. Some of them are relegated to Sunday Mornings Only, like worship and celebration. Service can only be "projects," and can not happen more than twice a year (unless your small group is full of overachievers). And I'm sure I can come up with some medical reason not to fast. 

So what are we supposed to do? How do we incorporate these into our lives? What do they look like in practice?

Guess I'll go figure it out and let you know. That means I have to do them. *sigh* Homework.

Tomorrow: Meditation.